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Lyons, Brookfield men among 7 charged with COVID fraud

Feds say ring stole $16 million in COVID relief money

A Lyons man and another from Brookfield were among seven people indicted on federal charges for allegedly fraudulently obtaining at least $16 million in small business loans and grants under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

The defendants engaged in fraud related to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program – one of the sources of relief under the CARES Act, according to a 33-count indictment returned October 19 in the Northern District of Illinois.

Charged with wire fraud and money laundering were Maja Nikolic, 34, of Brookfield, Nebojsa Simeunovic, 37, of Lyons, Marko Nikolic, 34, of La Grange, Mijajlo Stanisic, 33, of Willowbrook, Branko Aleksic, 33, of Chicago, Milica Sumakovic, 31, of Chicago, and Dorde Todorovic, 32, of Chicago. None of the men are American citizens.

Both Nikolics, Simeunovic, Sumakovic and Todorovik are all Serbians. Simeunovic was the owner and operator of a business named SIM Express Inc. in Oakbrook, Illinois.

Stanisic and Aleksic are Montenegrin nationals.

Arraignments in federal court in Chicago have not yet been scheduled.

The indictment was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; R. Sean Fitzgerald, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of Homeland Security Investigations; J. Russell George, Inspector General of the Treasury Department Inspector General for Tax Administration; Justin Campbell, Special Agent-in-Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago; and Hannibal Ware, Inspector General of the U.S. Small Business Administration. The government is represented by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Malgorzata Tracz Kozaka and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kavitha J. Babu.

The EIDL program provided loan assistance or grants to cover working capital and other operating expenses. According to the indictment, the defendants in the spring and summer of 2020 submitted to the SBA fraudulent applications in which they claimed to own and operate various businesses in Illinois and Florida. The applications and supporting documents contained materially false representations about the defendants’ companies, including the number of purported employees, revenue amounts, and other expenses, the indictment states.

The indictment alleges that the defendants caused the SBA to disburse at least $16 million in EIDL loans and grants into bank accounts controlled by the defendants and others. The defendants allegedly used the money to make cash withdrawals and transfers for their personal benefit.

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